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There once was a time when it seemed like the only new TV shows receiving green-lights were dreary police procedurals, sappy hospital-set dramas for your mom, and programs about lawyers who sleep with each other more than actually solve cases. Over the last few years, however, the tide has changed, with hits like The Walking Dead (zombies = unexpectedly huge ratings) and House of Cards (Netflix’s game-changing, Emmy-nominated streaming success) redirecting the future of TV programming. But In 2014, everything changed. The 'All E.R./L.A. Law/NYPD Blue Wannabes Everything' era ended.
Our list of The Best TV Shows of 2014 is evidence that this past year upended television’s rule books. There's the dramedy that’s only available online and follows a transgender lead; the visually stunning period drama wholly directed by an Academy Award nominee that looks and feels like a motion picture; the prestigious one-off cable drama in which the stars of Surfer, Dude and Kingpin merge with the occult and “weird fiction” master Thomas Ligotti; and the weekly horror show ripe with gruesome, viscera-clad tableaus and murder scenes that airs on the same network as the happy-go-lucky singing competition The Voice.
While imagination-challenged Hollywood execs are busy milking comic book properties and preexisting franchises, the creative minds working in television have fully adopted an “anything goes” mentality. And when TV’s history books get revised 20 or so years from now, 2014 will be seen as the year when innovation reigned supreme. These 30 shows will be the prime examples.
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Related: The Best TV Shows of 2017